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Video: When is a red light jumping driver not a red light jumping driver?

Met officer explains to cyclist who submitted footage of "clear red light jump" why police were unable to take it further...

While it’s red light jumping cyclists that (stereo)typically attract the ire of the tabloid press and below-the-line commenters, it’s clear to any bike rider that many motorists treat amber lights as advisory rather than a warning, putting their foot down while trying (and all too often, failing) to beat the traffic signal turning red. We don’t have to tell you which one has more potential for harming other road users.

So, when a road.cc reader submitted a video of a driver making what he described as a “clear red light jump” on the morning of 18 January in Thornton Heath, South London, he assumed that the Metropolitan Police might act on the footage. It turns out he was wrong.

His email exchange with the officer who reviewed the footage after the cyclist queried why the driver would not be prosecuted gives an insight into issues police have to consider in deciding whether or not to refer a case for prosecution.

The cyclist is still well short of the traffic signal at the junction with the Ponds roundabout as it turns amber, but as he slows down, the driver of a BMW passes him to his right and goes through the red light.

The junction has an advanced stop line, use of which is governed by Rule 178 of the Highway Code, as follows:

Advanced stop lines. Some signal-controlled junctions have advanced stop lines to allow cycles to be positioned ahead of other traffic. Motorists, including motorcyclists, MUST stop at the first white line reached if the lights are amber or red and should avoid blocking the way or encroaching on the marked area at other times, e.g. if the junction ahead is blocked. If your vehicle has proceeded over the first white line at the time that the signal goes red, you MUST stop at the second white line, even if your vehicle is in the marked area. Allow cyclists time and space to move off when the green signal shows.

In the short clip above, it’s clear that the lights have changed to amber well before the motorist is even in shot, and while it is difficult to judge whether he or she speeded up, equally it seems no attempt was made to slow down. And while the light remained amber when the vehicle crossed the first line, it had changed to red before it crossed the second.

The reviewing officer told the cyclist that after watching the footage, he agreed with the member of staff who had initially decided that “the case should be dealt with as one of NFA (No Further Action) IETP (Insufficient Evidence To Proceed),” and went on to explain the reasoning behind the decision.

“The vehicle in question does pass the primary stop line on amber and is within the ASL cycle box,” he explained. “Due to the speed of the vehicle it would have been impossible to stop at the Advanced Stop Line. If the vehicle was travelling at the posted speed of 30mph it would have taken 75 feet to stop in time for the secondary Stop line of the ATS (automatic traffic signal).  The CPS (Crown Prosecution Service) will look at this and in particular Rule 178 of the Highway Code.

“The vehicle would have stood no chance of stopping at the secondary stop line and it would have been more dangerous to apply the brakes on in an attempt to stop and in so doing, possibly lose control, and cause more danger to the occupants of the vehicle and other road users.  

“Vehicles should stop at the Primary stop line and or the secondary stop line *if safe to do so*. There would be a statutory defence whereby if the driver of a vehicle is deemed to have contravened a Red ATS and it would be considered that severe braking would cause even more danger then no offence would be committed.”

He added: “The Highway Code is a guidance to road users and is not statutory traffic law through an Act of Parliament i.e. RTA (Road Traffic Act) 1988.”

(Editor’s note: The Highway Code is annotated throughout with details of the specific legislation relating to each Rule, in this case sections 36 (as amended by the Traffic Signs Regulations and General Directions 2002), 36 (1) and 42 of the Road Traffic Act 1988).

The officer added: “On this occasion I would respectfully consider that there is insufficient evidence to bring this allegation to a successful prosecution under current CPS guidelines which we must adhere to.

“Please continue to send in reports of bad driving as we have a Seventy Five (75) per cent successful prosecution rate with footage provided by members of the public.”

The cyclist replied, suggesting that “consideration be given to whether the driver was driving dangerously and/or speeding,” and saying that he felt that “the conclusions in your email imply that driving at speed or in a manner which leads to exactly this situation are to be tolerated.”

He added: “I appreciate that the Highway Code is a guide, but the parts that say ‘must’ are legally enforceable.”

That email elicited a detailed response from the same reviewing officer, who said that it “would be hard to prove in a court of law.”

He said: “Police cannot prove the speeding element unless a Home Office approved calibrated speeding device is used to calculate the speed,” and that “with regards to proving they had no intention to stop,” the driver’s mens rea – state of mind – “could not be proved.”

He continued: “The vehicle had no chance of stopping at the secondary stop line and it would not have been safe to do so.”

In conclusion, he said: “CPS guidelines are clear in that any offence capable of proof the evidence must be apparent to do so. This allegation would be looked on and the decision would be one of vehicles should stop at the primary stop line and or the secondary stop line *if safe to do so*. 

“There would be a statutory defence whereby if the driver of a vehicle is deemed to have contravened a Red ATS and it would be considered that severe braking would cause even more danger then no offence would be committed.”

So, there we have it. We suspect most cyclists viewing that footage would consider it a clear-cut case of a driver ignoring a red light – but based on the evidence available and the impossibility of proving to the extent required at court that the driver had speeded up, the police were unable to take it further.

Simon joined road.cc as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

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32 comments

Avatar
cycle.london | 4 years ago
0 likes

'Police cannot prove the speeding element unless a Home Office approved calibrated speeding device is used to calculate the speed...'

This is another example of when the Met shifts the goalposts to suit themselves.

I've submitted videos of speeding drivers, which they've rejected.  When I've asked why, the response has been that they '... can only rely on a Home Office-approved device'.

Fair enough.  I mean, it's still partial bullshit, because I saw a motorcyclist go across London Bridge once, so fucking fast that a quick s=d/t revealed his speed to be between 98 mph and 112 mph (allowing for margin of error because I couldn't see both start and finish absolutely clearly).  

But anyway.  The Met have rejected those videos.  And then, in a 'let's palm this fucker off by moving the goalposts', they have also refused to prosecute a driver because I was seen to 'leave the cycle lane at speed'.

Quite aside from the fact that the speed limits do not apply to cyclists (except in very limited circumstances), '... what happened to 'Home Office-approved?', I asked them.

*tumbleweed*

Lying c**ts.

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hawkinspeter replied to cycle.london | 4 years ago
2 likes

It'll be fine - the MET are handing out hi-viz instead of acting on video evidence provided by cyclists. I'm sure they know how best to protect cyclists in the capital.

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mdavidford | 4 years ago
1 like

I can sort of understand the argument that it wouldn't be successfully prosecuted because defence lawyers would argue that the forward-facing footage can't prove that it was safe to stop. But why does that mean that no action can be taken? Can't they at least write a warning letter, or give the owner a 'friendly' phone call, so that they're aware that it hasn't gone unnoticed and might think twice about it in future?

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hawkinspeter replied to mdavidford | 4 years ago
1 like

Surely the "not safe to stop" argument should be made by the driver and their defense lawyer. I would have thought that the police having proof that the driver went through red lights would be enough to prosecute and it should be down to the driver to present their own defence and if they don't have any evidence to defend their RLJ then that's their problem.

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auldain | 4 years ago
1 like

And it was a BMW driver, so should have been an automatic charging. Same with all Audi drivers. 

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cycle.london replied to auldain | 4 years ago
0 likes
auldain wrote:

And it was a BMW driver, so should have been an automatic charging. Same with all Audi drivers. 

It's a valid point, and no one seems to want to do anything about it.  It's all very well for some BMW drivers to bleat 'we're not all like that!', but the bald and unpalatable fact of the matter is that BMWs, Audis and other 'high status' vehicles do seem to attract sociopaths.   I am never going to stab anyone, but I still have constraints placed on me, if I buy a kitchen knife in Asda, because enough people do stab others, that my 'liberty' is slightly infringed in the interest of the greater good.

Isn't it time that the purchase of certain brands of cars, be subject to psychological tests?

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brianlescargot | 4 years ago
1 like

Nowhere near as bad as this one which the police did prosecute.  https://youtu.be/elLvXxXzVdE

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ktache replied to brianlescargot | 4 years ago
0 likes

Thanks Brian, the Mrs one was even more blatent.

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Rik Mayals unde... | 4 years ago
0 likes

BMW driver, need we say any more?

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brianlescargot replied to Rik Mayals underpants | 4 years ago
0 likes

That's like the BMW driver saying all cyclists jump red lights and tarring us all with the same brush!

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Rik Mayals unde... replied to brianlescargot | 4 years ago
0 likes

Not really. Almost all BMW drivers drive like dicks, it's common knowledge. No indicators, speeding, staring at the phones in their lap. 1 series and 3 series drivers are by far the worst. 

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cycle.london | 4 years ago
0 likes

If you're after some light watching..  the following may be long, as I always include two minutes before and after.. 

http://youtube.com/watch?v=5ifGOiVjMSE

http://youtube.com/watch?v=LJ-lA0Af-dE

http://youtube.com/watch?v=zhtW1qSAYS8

http://youtube.com/watch?v=jWb7yFyf1g0

http://youtube.com/watch?v=Dzl3V4WY5Ik

And so on.  A mixture or RLJ and illegal ASL use.

All rejected by the Met.  

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Tom_77 | 4 years ago
1 like

Traffic lights show amber for 3 seconds between changing from green to red (https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/360311/response/883361/attach/3/attachment.pdf).

If you're doing 30mph, that's 13.4 metres per second, so you'll travel 40 metres in 3 seconds. Stopping distance at 30mph is 23 metres.

23 metres is a hell of a lot less than 40 metres, so a driver should either pass the light long before it turns red or easily be able to stop in time.

 

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AlsoSomniloquism | 4 years ago
4 likes

I had one this morning on the way into work. Single lane. I arrived at just changed red light and stopped at line. Bus and other traffic pulled up behind me. Waiting for light to change when a Honda Civic came around the bus ( not sure how far back and how many cars he overtook to get there and stopped a good cars length the other side of the line. Luckily no peds were crossing at the time. A white car followed him and they stopped further back but blocking the other lane essentially. Car then speeds away whilst lights pretty much just changed to red amber.

I will be submitting the footage tomorrow to WMP although they never ever feed back outcomes. 

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Jetmans Dad | 4 years ago
4 likes

So ... what the police are saying is that if you are driving towards a set of traffic lights that are currently green, there is no point in lifting off in case they change as you approach, because legally you have free rein to just bowl through an amber or red light with impunity because maintaining your speed has made it "safer" than trying to stop suddenly?

That is literally the exact opposite of what I was taught when I learned to drive. 

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Tired of the tr... | 4 years ago
7 likes

For comparison, in Germany jumping a red light always carries a fine, although the regulations accepts that it's usually less serious if the lights just changed. So the fines are:

  • light was red less than 1 second: 90€, 1 point on license
  • light was red less than 1 second, with endangering others: 200€, 2 points, 1 month driving ban
  • light was red more than 1 second: 200€, 2 points, possibly 1 month driving ban or lose license
  • light was red more than 1 second with endangering otehrs: 320€, 2 points, 1 month driving ban or lose license.

So don't try that "it was not safe to stop" in Germany, that's what the amber phase is for...

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eburtthebike replied to Tired of the trolls here and gone cycling instead | 4 years ago
4 likes
Stephan Matthiesen wrote:

For comparison, in Germany jumping a red light always carries a fine, although the regulations accepts that it's usually less serious if the lights just changed. So the fines are:

  • light was red less than 1 second: 90€, 1 point on license
  • light was red less than 1 second, with endangering others: 200€, 2 points, 1 month driving ban
  • light was red more than 1 second: 200€, 2 points, possibly 1 month driving ban or lose license
  • light was red more than 1 second with endangering otehrs: 320€, 2 points, 1 month driving ban or lose license.

So don't try that "it was not safe to stop" in Germany, that's what the amber phase is for...

Amazing!  That's what happens when you value people's lives more than the rights of drivers to kill them.  I'm sure all this will be in the review of road offences announced in 2013(?)

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BIRMINGHAMisaDUMP | 4 years ago
6 likes

Vehicles should stop at the Primary stop line and or the secondary stop line *if safe to do so*. There would be a statutory defence whereby if the driver of a vehicle is deemed to have contravened a Red ATS and it would be considered that severe braking would cause even more danger then no offence would be committed.”

that's interesting. "If safe to do so". So that should apply to cyclists who anticipate the lights to enable them to safely move away ahead of the traffic behind them?

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bikeman01 | 4 years ago
9 likes

Just so I understand, red light enforcement cameras don't provide sufficient evidence for prosecution since they do not also capture the speed of the vehicle or the intention of the driver.

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Sriracha | 4 years ago
23 likes

If only there was some advance warning that the lights were about to turn red so that you were never faced with the invidious choice of slamming on your brakes versus running a red light. They could have some clear warning, maybe an intermediate signal of a different colour, to prevent such a dilema ever befalling a motorist, whilst simultaneously preventing that argument from being ever accepted as a defence.

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Dangerous Dan replied to Sriracha | 4 years ago
7 likes

No one would ever go for that.  It requires the driver to look away from their mobile phone...

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stealfwayne replied to Sriracha | 4 years ago
0 likes
Sriracha wrote:

If only there was some advance warning that the lights were about to turn red so that you were never faced with the invidious choice of slamming on your brakes versus running a red light. They could have some clear warning, maybe an intermediate signal of a different colour, to prevent such a dilema ever befalling a motorist, whilst simultaneously preventing that argument from being ever accepted as a defence.

 

For reference: In israel, the amber light flashes prior to going fully 'on' prior to the Red light. Giving you an extra 5 or so seconds to decide whether to brake or not, It was actually a great system in use and one i can't work out why we don't have here.

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Ynotmi replied to Sriracha | 4 years ago
0 likes

Or just make the amber phase a bit longer, particularly on roads with a higher speed limit.

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ChrisB200SX | 4 years ago
7 likes

Police doing some serious metal gymnastics to avoid doing their job here!
It's gone through a red, simple as that, speed, ASL box and stopping "safely" are all not relevant.

One might assume that traffic lights stay on amber long enough that a car travelling at the (maximum) speed limit should be able to stop before the light went red?!

The cyclist was at least 75ft back from the ASL line when lights changed to amber... and the car was clearly much further back than that!

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lukei1 | 4 years ago
2 likes

It does seem frustratingly difficult to report RLJs, due to a combination of CPS guidelines and the Met only wanting to submit watertight cases. Below are 2 of mine that were rejected for differing reasons that really should have been prosecuted:

https://youtu.be/sSD0WpHzQ9I

https://youtu.be/9oXVvxiNv7I

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Notbuilt2climb | 4 years ago
6 likes

Hmmm..  If only I had video evidence of the police car I saw in Bristol recently who blatantly continued driving through a red light with no blue flashing lights or sirens.  I was at the other side of the junction that merges into the same road the police car drove on to, and had a green light.

I later caught up with the police car who was in traffic a mile up the road and as I rode past a car that was doubleparked in a cycle lane causing the road to narrow, the police drove straight by it.  

What chance have we got?

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eburtthebike | 4 years ago
10 likes

So when a driver is going too fast to stop, it isn't a crime, but when a cyclist is going too fast to stop, it is.  I'm so glad that's been cleared up.

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Hirsute replied to eburtthebike | 4 years ago
8 likes

Also "Home Office approved calibrated speeding device is used to calculate the speed"

New one on me. Thought police were quite happy to work out speed from CCTV.

Eg https://www.google.com/amp/s/road.cc/content/news/268239-police-said-cyc...

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brooksby replied to Hirsute | 4 years ago
1 like

My favourite junction - for the Bristol commenters on here - is the traffic light junction where Beggar Bush Lane (Abbots Leigh) joins the A369.

People have worked out that the delays in timings of the different lights means that someone coming out of Beggar Bush Lane to go toward Portishead know full well that they have several seconds after their lights have gone red before they have to worry about being hit by traffic coming from Bristol toward Portishead.  So they don't worry about it.  Or stop.

Cars, HGVs, it doesn't matter; and, of course, because they "have" to beat the light sequence they don't both slowing down from 50-60mph (Beggar Bush Lane) to the nominal 40mph limit of the A369...

What's that you say?  "But what about people waiting to cross the road who get a green man to cross and step out?"  Ah, well, tough on them - they ought to get a car.

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danhopgood replied to eburtthebike | 4 years ago
2 likes
eburtthebike wrote:

So when a driver is going too fast to stop, it isn't a crime, but when a cyclist is going too fast to stop, it is.  I'm so glad that's been cleared up.

What?!  I don't see how you draw that conclusion.  I think the Police have taken the view - rightly in my opinion - that this wasn't a serious incident.  That doesn't make it right, but you wouldn't have to wait long at any busy TL junction in a big UK city to find worse issues than this.  I had an interesting visit once to am office in Hampshire where the Police process all this stuff.  For minor offences, they decide how much resource they have to process prosecutions, decide on the worst offenders and seek to prosecute those.  The rest  get away with it.  With the current government, the resources available are three fifths of naff all.........

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